Family discipleship is a rich opportunity for you display the gospel of Jesus Christ to your kids through parenting. As you engage your family with the gospel, it's helpful to realize that family discipleship is a multi-faceted design giving your family a holistic and healthy approach to becoming learners, followers and reproducers of Jesus.
There are four elements at work as you disciple your family:
- The parent’s personal relationship with Christ
- The parent's relationship with the family
- Each family member’s individual relationship with Christ
- Their family's relationship with the Church.
All of these elements are important to family discipleship. Before diving into each of these elements, though, it is essential to understand that parents are intended by God to be the primary disciplers of their children (Deuteronomy 6:4-9). We, the Church, have two main roles in family discipleship. First, we are the secondary voice of discipleship for your kids, reinforcing Biblical, Gospel truths and affirming the parents’ authority given by God. Second, we want to teach and equip you as parents to take this holistic approach in your family discipleship.
Our desire is to teach and equip you as parents. We are eager to do that through blog posts that address each of the four elements of family discipleship. This post will focus on the first of those four elements: “The parent's personal relationship with Christ.”
Family discipleship begins with how parents seek and savor Jesus.
To be effective disciple makers of Jesus, you must have been and continue to be transformed by the gospel. If Jesus is a second thought to parents, discipleship will not be lived out before their children. Knowing the difference between taking children "to church" and allowing your children to see you "being the church no matter where you are" is key to family discipleship. If Jesus is just a church word parents use for behavioral modification (i.e., telling them to, “Stop that behavior because Jesus doesn’t like that,” saving yourself from public embarrassment), parents may cause their kids to become disciples of good behavior, but not disciples of Jesus Christ.
So parents, how do you know you are personally trusting in Christ? Here are some questions to consider. When was the last time you trusted in the gospel for a family, work, or church decision? When was the last time you trusted and acted on the gospel instead of the sinful desire welling up within you? When was the last time you actually confessed sin to your family or small group because you knew that you didn't have to hide your sin from others since Christ died to set you free of shame and guilt? When was the last time you acted in faith and loved someone who didn't deserve it because you were reminded of God's great love for you on the cross, giving you forgiveness and new life despite all of your rebellion, rejection, and sin toward Him?
Even if our children never receive Christ, our children will be convinced that we truly believe Jesus is everything He said He was by the way we live out that belief in front of them.
This is not the mindset that most of us grew up with, and it can be difficult when you grew up in a culture of "going to church every time the doors were open". But we have to change our mindset. We have to grow up in the gospel ourselves. How do you do that? You must train your mind to focus on Christ (Romans 12:2-3; Philippians 4:8-9). As a parent, you must be reminded of the truths of the gospel and lean on the power of gospel every single day (Titus 2:11-15). You must wake up, work, play, and sleep the gospel truths for your life (2 Peter 1:3-10). And when you recognize your lack of love and loyalty to Christ, you can stop and worship the Lord in that same moment because the gospel has done the work you failed to do, granting you complete access to the Father (Colossians 1:13, Ephesians 2:1-10).
Training your mind to see Christ takes practice.
You can be reminded of His great love by practicing spiritual disciplines or “means of grace.” As Tim taught us in the Rhythms series at the start of 2017, many spiritual disciplines can be divided up into three major sections: hearing God's voice (scripture and meditation), having God's ear (prayer and fasting), and communing with God's people (small groups).
Spiritual disciplines seem hard, but thankfully God has not made himself difficult. As we set our life to his design, we prosper. God does the transforming (2 Corinthians 3:18)! Our job as believers is to get in his path! We get into his path when we engage in a rhythm of spending time with Him. You need a time, place and plan for the spiritual disciplines in your life. Be diligent. Surround yourself with a gospel community who is ready to serve. Dallas Willard said, "Grace is not opposed to effort, but to earning." Take the next step in glorifying the Father through knowing more of Christ.
Living in light of the gospel will transform how you see God's design for parenting. You will experience the perfect parent-to-child relationship that God has with you which is rooted in love. As you continue to experience this transformation, you will treat others--including your children--with the same grace you have received and are now receiving. You will give abundantly because you are now more aware of the abundant grace afforded you.
Your relationship with Jesus Christ as a parent is a crucial element for you in discipling your kids in a holistic way because you are tapping into a key element of any discipleship relationship, which is “demonstration.” Dawson Trotman, founder of the Navigators ministry, explains that “Discipleship is more caught than taught.” When your kids see you loving and following Jesus, they are more likely catch on and do it themselves.
Parents, if you are reading this and feel far from the grace and love of God we want you to know that in Christ we are no longer defined by what we have done or will do, but rather by the word and work of Jesus. If you not have repented of your sin and placed faith in Christ for forgiveness and restoration of your life, both now and forever, God has made this truth available to you in Christ! You will become a new person with a beautiful identity (2 Corinthians 5:17) in Christ as a son or daughter (Romans 8:14-15). A new identity also includes a new family. We, the church, are that new family. Please share with us what the Lord is doing in your life.